Gabriella Agostinelli

Gabriella has always been passionate about helping people and making a difference in others’ lives. “I was about 17 years old when I realised that I wanted to become a doctor. My brother was in a horrific motorcycle accident in 2011, and he sustained a traumatic brain injury. It was a tough time for our family, but at the same time, I wanted to learn and understand exactly what that meant. The doctors were cold and used jargon that I couldn’t comprehend. And I wanted to change that.”

She continues, “it was quite a journey for me to get into the MB, ChB course. I faced rejection from multiple universities and ended up studying BSc at Stellenbosch University for my first year. I was fortunate to be accepted with those results and so the life-changing six-year marathon started.”

What are some of the challenges that new graduate doctors face in South Africa?

In such a demanding field, being a junior doctor in South Africa comes with many challenges. Gabriella says, “the first is the dreaded internship application and the fear of not being placed (or being placed far away from your family). Once you start working, there are many more challenges you face daily. For example, long working hours, limited resources and a large patient volume to name a few. However, there are many positives too. We’ve worked hard to be where we are, and with years of working experience ahead of us, there are endless opportunities to look forward to. I try to see the positive in every situation, to work hard and to ensure my patients receive the best possible care I can give them.”

How can young minds like yourself help to improve the healthcare sector in South Africa?

“I believe that if every healthcare practitioner – junior or senior – makes an active effort to be the change, and to view every encounter with a patient as an opportunity to be a health advocate, it will make a world of difference to a patient.” She believes it’s up to doctors to show compassion and to go the extra mile. It’s the small things that will make a world of difference to a patient. “I also firmly believe in being involved in the surrounding communities through outreach clinics. This enables one to gain insight into the patient’s immediate environment, limit the cost implications of travelling to the hospital and cuts down on waiting times.

Words of encouragement for students who feel like they have lost hope

“For prospective or current medical students, I’ll say that you shouldn’t give up. It’s a tough experience, and you will be pushed to your limits, mentally and physically, daily. However, I can assure you that it is well worth the rewards you will reap. For users of the healthcare systems, I know that it is often frustrating, but try to be patient and understanding. Doctors in the public sector are only doing their best with what they have available – and ultimately want what’s best for you.”